Botanical Formulations

Herbs, or botanicals, are medicinal food that provides a resonance to the body that can positively affect a symptom or disease, or support a patient’s Chinese medical pattern of dysharmony.

Herbs are chosen based on the taste, temperature, function, and which organ system(s) they affect.

  • Sour
  • Bitter
  • Sweet
  • Acrid

  • Salty
  • Astringes (holds)
  • Descends
  • Nourishes the center
  • Moving
  • Dissolves
  • Liver
  • Heart
  • Spleen
  • Lungs
  • Kidneys

Let’s look at a popular herb: Ginger

Ginger in its raw form is called fresh ginger, or Sheng Jiang. It is slightly warm, acrid, and affects the Lungs, Spleen and Stomach. Below are its actions and indications:
  • Release the exterior, induce perspiration and dispel cold
  • Warm the middle and stop vomiting
  • Warms the Lungs and stops coughing
  • Reduces the toxicity of other herbs and seafood
  • Adjusts the Ying and Wei – normalizes the flow of Qi in the center
  • Wind-Cold
  • Cold in the stomach especially with vomiting
  • Cough due to wind-cold
    Cough due to Lung deficiency with Phlegm
  • Herb toxicity or seafood poisoning
  • Wind-Cold with deficiency

Looking at raw ginger’s actions and indications, it can be used on day one of a cold that does not present with heat signs (no sore throat or fever). It can help the immune system push the pathogen out of the skin level so it does not go deeper into the body.

Ginger could be used when there is cold in the stomach. Cold can accumulate in the stomach when there is an injury from exposure – cold water and foods or from long-term use of acid reducers which are cold minerals.

If you were experiencing digestive upset, you could safely try ginger since it is only slightly warm, versus warm to hot in nature.

If you took fresh ginger and dried it, it would become more warming. Dried ginger is also called Gan Jiang.

Dried Ginger is warm to hot in temperature, is acrid, affects the Lungs, Spleen, Stomach, Heart, and slightly affects the Kidneys and Large Intestine.

  • Warms the Middle and
    expels Cold
  • Dispels Wind-Dampness seeping into the Lower Jiao
  • Rescues Devastated Yang and expels Interior Cold
  • Warms the Lungs and transforms thin mucus
  • Warms the channels (unblocks the pulse) and stops bleeding
  • External Cold affecting the Spleen and Stomach
    Spleen and Stomach Yang Deficiencies
  • Lower Jiao Wind-Cold-Damp Bi
  • Devastated Yang with a very weak pulse and cold limbs
  • Lung Cold with expectoration of thin, watery or white sputum
  • Hemorrhage due to Deficiency Cold, especially uterine bleeding (only if the bleeding is chronic and pale in color with cold limbs, ashen white face and a soggy thin pulse)

Dried ginger can improve digestion when it is impaired due to poor metabolic function presenting as weakness and cold. This is common in patients with hypothyroidism. They may have an aversion to cold drinks. Instead prefer room temperature or warm drinks. Eating raw foods like salads may cause digestive upset due to their cold nature, and their abdomen may be cool or cold to the touch.

When numerous herbs are combined, they can create a more dynamic affect

If this patient does present with weak digestion and cold with an underlying Kidney (adrenal) weakness, then ginger can be used in an herbal formula that also works to stimulate Kidney function.

Ginseng is often used to stimulate the Kidneys (adrenals) and could be paired with Dried Ginger. There is a popular Chinese herbal formula called Decoction to Regulate the Middle that contains:

  • Dried Ginger (Gan Jiang)
  • Chinese Ginseng (Ren Shen)

  • Atractylodis (Bai Zhu)
  • Dry-fried Licorice (Zhi Gan Cao)

  • Warms the Spleen and Stomach, eliminates interior Cold.
  • Strengthens the Kidneys (adrenals) and the digestion.
  • Strengthens the Spleen and dries Dampness.
  • Harmonizes the formulas

Dried ginger with dry-fried licorice treats epigastric pain due to cold in the stomach. Adding Atractylodis helps with diarrhea from weak digestive function.

The addition of Ginseng increases the strengthening of the Kidneys thereby improving digestive function by improving metabolism, especially paired with Atractylodis.

Formula vs Green Pharmacy

Herbs are medicinal food. Just like with food, the micronutrients work synergistically. Eating real food will always be more beneficial than taking supplements. The above herbal formula shows how the herbs work together to warm and strengthen the digestive system and adrenals, in the same way macronutrients work together.

Many practitioners would use a this-for-that method to treat the above patient. We call this Green Pharmacy. It is more natural than pharmacology, but it is still following a reductionist method. Just like isolating a micronutrient in a supplement, it will never obtain nutrient synergy like food can.